The award no ad-man wants to win: the Sexist Piggy Prize

10-06-2009

The latest advertising contest underway is one that competitors will not be keen on winning. The Sexist Piggy prize goes to the advertiser responsible for the most sexist ad, and it’s been turning a lot of heads itself.

Advertisers in the Czech Republic, listen up for a special one-of-a-kind offer: The Brno civic association Hnutí Nesehnutí is holding a contest for the most sexist advertisement, and yours may well meet the conditions. The prize: a caramel pig. Alžběta Mojžíšová, one of the contest’s organisers, explains:

“The main focus of the campaign is to raise awareness of the fact that sexism is everywhere around us. People can send us their examples of advertisements that they find sexist. And then we will choose the one that is the most sexist. It’s part of a wider campaign against sexism because there hasn’t been any systematic campaign on the topic of sexism.”

There is no shortage of competitors for the Sexist Piggy prize. There’s the gratuitous bum on an ad for plastic windows and the girl with a cardboard box between her legs in an ad for, well, cardboard boxes. But the hottest candidate at present seems to be a Brno billboard for used cars showing an attractive 51-year-old woman in a bikini and announcing “you don’t have to be afraid of old rides”. The advertiser’s argument is clear: women attract attention, sex sells, and that’s a fact of commerce. But does that mentality encourage sexism in society?

“I don’t think that advertisements make society more sexist, but of course they strengthen stereotypes that are already here. So that’s why we want to point out that they’re not only words, it’s not only fun, but it can have some consequences. Like when you see all of these stereotypical images of men and women in typical gender roles and those images of the human body reduced to an object, it gives you a message that this is alright, that this is the reality that we should live in. But I think it’s important to find new meanings and work with other images that are not based on these stereotypes.”

For feminist poet and activist Anne Waldman, sex in advertising runs both ways. The prospective customer is anyone – black, white, male, female, gay, straight – and advertising has also put issues of race and sexuality directly in the public eye and made people more familiar and tolerant of things that were once taboo. But it abuses gender roles as well, and she believes the Sexist Piggy prize is a good way to go about combating that form of sexism.

“I think, what can your outrage be, I mean it’s hard to stop this kind of thing, but speaking out, having a counter-proposal, working with humour is good, and sometimes these things go very slow but it can change perception. I mean it’s very hard to regulate and have laws - I’m very careful about issues of freedom of speech and certain kinds of civil rights around censorship and so on - but people should get it, people should get that it’s not appropriate.”

Censorship of course is a possibility always on the table but infrequently employed. Last year for example, the country’s Council for Advertising dealt with 5 cases of sexism, all of which were ultimately dismissed.

10-06-2009